Ashdown star Kaiden Hunter edges out teammate Lamar Wilkerson for Fox Sports Texarkana Boys Player of the Year
Ashdown completed a memorable 28-2 season Thursday night at the Hot Springs Convention Center when they won the 3A state championship. It was the school’s first-ever state title in basketball. The team collected a lot of hardware, not to mention recognition from Fox Sports Texarkana.com.
Wilkerson was named the game’s MVP after scoring 12 points, while hold Drew Central’s leading scorer Nicky Barnard to 5 points. The away could have just as easily gone to Keamon Nutt, who led Ashdown with 18 points and 4 steals. John Smith contributed 15 points and had a team-high 5 rebounds.
But when Hunter wasn’t matching, or surpassing his 19.7 season scoring average, he was the Panthers’ floor general and directing traffic. His real strength was making steals and scoring in transition, but he was usually an outstanding outside shooter.
Every game Hunter faced the challenge of his father’s shadow. His father Patrick Hunter was an all-state player for the Panthers, and enjoyed a brilliant career at Baylor University.
Panthers’ James Smith named coach of the year
Veteran coach James Smith was more of a story at the championship game than he wanted to be. An ejection in the semifinals at Osceola meant he couldn’t be in the arena while the game was being played, but he was never too far from the arena. Smith is the Boys Fox Sports Texarkana Coach of the Year, and the reasons are obvious. He also coached Marked Tree to a state championship in 1988.
Our starting five features the most explosive scorers in the Texarkana area, and there’s height with Atlanta’s 6-8 Daimion Collins and Texas High’s 6-7 T. J. Kelley. Collins, only a sophomore, averaged 22.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.7 blocks per game. Kelley is a junior, who scored at a 16.3 clip, and pulled down 11.5 rebounds every outing.
Texas High senior Kyle Wright was the best outside shooter in the area. He averaged 16.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Texas High won a school record 28 games in 2018-19.
The final two players recognized are Pleasant Grove senor Kamren Woods and Ashdown’s Wilkerson. The Hawks finished the season strong in the playoffs, a large part of that due to Woods. The future Ouachita Baptist University football player averaged 19.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Wilkerson torched the nets for 19.3 points per game.
Fouke’s Taylor Hardin, Mo Williams earn superlative honors
Taylor Hardin’s 2018-19 season had its ups and downs. It was an emotional ride. Her adventures are covered in a separate story, also released Friday.
Williams selection as the Fox Sports Texarkana Girls Coach of the Year was not a difficult pick. If not for injuries, illnesses, and a lack of height, Fouke might have lasted longer in the 3A state tournament.
All of that adversity couldn’t keep the Lady Panthers from having the second best record in school history at 27-7. Several Fouke coaches and players have been chasing that record of 33 wins in 1989. Williams hopes to make another run at the record with Hardin and Mallory Oliver returning.
Our starting five features a team of girls who can shoot lights out from beyond the arc, and can also pour it on in transition.
Atlanta’s Keyona Easter is the most prolific scorer in the Texarkana area, averaging more than 30 points per game.
Shanequah Henry did it all for Lady Hawks
Pleasant Grove’s Shanequa Henry can’t match those numbers offensively, but her 15.17 scoring average, rebounding, assists and steals made her one of the most dangerous players around. The same might be said of Texas High’s Kerrighan Dunn, Ashdown’s Adaysia Thompson, or Fouke senior Laykin Smallwood.
The Lady Hawks finished 31-5-1 on the season, and that wouldn’t have been possible without Henry.
Texas High could say the same about Dunn, who averaged 15.17 points, 5 assists, 7 steals and 8 rebounds for the Lady Tigers, who finished 28-8.
When Hardin knocking down 3-pointers, he teammate Laykin Smallwood picked her up with some deadly shooting. The Lady Panthers recorded 280 3-pointers this season.